For Stony Brook Computer Science Students, Robert A. Schwartz Scholarship is About More Than Dollars

It would be easy to discuss the impact of the Robert A. Schwartz Computer Science Scholarship in financial terms. After all, the difference that Bob Schwartz ’75 and his wife, Ellen Brown, make for scholarship recipients in Stony Brook University’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) is very tangible.

“I think I left college with about $6,000 in loans,” said Laurence Bordowitz ’14, the first recipient of the scholarship, “and I paid that off in less than a year and lived a debt-free life. I have Bob and Ellen to thank for that. I’m really grateful for their assistance.”

Indeed, the assistance that Schwartz and Brown provide for Stony Brook students – both in terms of financial support and mentorship – is invaluable in positioning them for success.

Still, the true meaning of the scholarship can’t be measured simply in terms of the number of students Schwartz and Brown have been supported, the years they’ve donated to the University, or even in dollars. To really understand the Schwartz Scholarship, you also have to measure in moments.

Like the moment at a recent Scholarship Celebration near the Stony Brook campus, where Schwartz and Brown sat at a table surrounded by the five current recipients of the scholarship, discussing the students’ career aspirations and life at Stony Brook, past and present.

“It’s absolutely amazing to be able to talk to Bob and all these other students receiving the same scholarship,” said Farhan Ahmed ’21. “He’s an alum, so he knows what things were like before we were even born.”

Or when Tina Zheng ’19, in her second year receiving the Schwartz scholarship, walks into her internship with a prominent financial technology firm, with instructions from Schwartz to give his regards to the company’s chief information officer.

“I had already been accepted to an internship,” Zheng recalled, “and Bob said, ‘Oh, I know the CIO of your company; let him know that you know me.’”

Or last year, at the annual “Engineering Ball” hosted by the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences (CEAS) when, with a healthy dose of encouragement from Brown, four aspiring computer scientists got up and danced.

“I had them all get up and dance with me,” Brown recalled, “and we had a good time.”

It’s not necessarily the type of scene one expects – “You think about engineers, dancing doesn’t really come to mind,” Schwartz said – but it was certainly a memorable experience for all involved.

“That was an interesting experience,” Zheng said, “because all four of us just said, ‘What do we do?’”

“I’m not much of a dancer myself,” Steven Zabolotny ’19 added, “but I’ll do it when there’s a party.”

A bit out of the ordinary, perhaps, but it’s emblematic of what makes the Schwartz Scholarship so special for all involved.

“If he didn’t want that part of it,” Brown said of her husband, “he’d just make a general donation to the University. The donation that he has set up is because he wants those interactions. He wants to see what the kids are saying about the program.”

It’s a program that served Schwartz well in his own career. He retired as Chief Technology Officer of SS&C Technologies, a leading provider of cloud-based financial services technology, and credits the education he received at Stony Brook for preparing him to adapt and thrive in a constantly evolving technological landscape.

“I’ve always thought that Stony Brook had a very strong computer science program,” Schwartz said, “because it really emphasized the academic and theoretical aspects. Coming away with that strong kind of computer science background, it prepares you for all of the changes that are going to come, because in technology, it’s all about change. Every year, there’s something new, and if you’ve got a strong academic computer science background, it makes it a lot easier for you to adapt to the changes.”

Staying connected to Stony Brook through the scholarship and his service on the CEAS Dean’s Council allows Schwartz to see that the program is just as strong as he remembers, if not stronger. In fact, hearing that some of his scholarship recipients had studied with Alan Tucker brought back memories of Schwartz’s own time in Tucker’s operations research class.

“It’s interesting,” Zheng said, “because he was talking about Alan Tucker, whom we all know, and he’s still here. I said, ‘Wow, he’s been teaching here that long.’”

Along similar lines, the perspective of someone with Schwartz’s decades of experience in industry is immensely beneficial.

“They always offer to help me with anything in terms of job opportunities or advice on my career,” Zabolotny said. “It almost feels like they’re my mentors in my career path. Bob has a lot of experience in the field, so it’s useful to have his advice.”

Of course, for all the value in the personal connections Schwartz forms with his students, the impact of the financial support itself cannot be overstated.

“Alumni and friends like Bob Schwartz and Ellen Brown are a tremendous source of strength for the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences,” said CEAS Dean Fotis Sotiropoulos. “The guidance and support that they provide makes a real difference in the lives of our students, and Bob’s guidance as a member of the Dean’s Council adds valuable perspective as we plan the college’s future.”

“It’s always rewarding to see alumni make a holistic commitment to student success as both scholarship donors and personal mentors,” added Senior Vice President for University Advancement Dexter A. Bailey Jr. “The relationship that Bob and Ellen have with their students exemplifies the kind of unique connection that’s possible for alumni and students at Stony Brook.”

-Elliot Olshansky

Photo Caption: Bob Schwartz ’75 (standing, left) and Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. speak with students receiving the Robert A. Schwartz Computer Science Scholarship at a Scholarship Celebration on Tuesday, March 12 at Flowerfield in St. James, N.Y.